Apple iOS Devices & Persistent Location Tracking




Last week a big can of worms opened when two security researchers revealed Apple's iOS 4 tracks and stores detailed location data on each user's whereabouts. Many are ready to ditch the iPhone over the news. That may be a little drastic. 

There's reason why Apple, or any mobile device platform, tracks current location. The frightening part is why Apple actually tracks and stores history with no stated purpose. Further, a post on Mac Rumors reveals Steve Jobs denies that the company tracks anyone.
We know that Google and web publishers track user activity online. It also uses notes location. Both activity and location are often used to serve more relevant ads, and also provide demographics to advertisers and other business the publisher has a relationship with. Mobile is an extension of the web mobile mirrors much of this conduct.
Apple is not the only one to track location. Google tracks location on its Android platform and on phones using Google mobile apps such as Google Maps (this includes the iPhone). A provider such as Google or Apple uses location information to provide navigation, provide local search results and yes, serve ads targeted to your location. We hope data doesn't get used for much deeper purposes. The fact that Apple's file keeps data for the life of a phone is alarming. The possibility that a company or person might tap into that file and exploit the data pushes concerns even deeper.
Cell phone carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and others also track your location. Your phone constantly checks in with the nearest towers. Carriers use that information to maintain its network and push services back to the subscriber. In certain cases location data can be used to locate someone for rescue purposes.
It shouldn't be a surprise that location data is tracked on your phone. However you shouldn't just accept it and continue business as usual. Pay some attention to the EULA statement or end-use licensing agreement before checking the box. Look into the privacy settings on your mobile device and set it to a level you're comfortable with. Remember that if you turn off a service provider's ability to share your location, you also won't be able to use apps and services that require your location such as Google Maps.

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